“The hospice isn’t a conveyor belt to the afterlife”

News and Blog

58-year-old Stephen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2020 and stayed in our hospice last year. Here Stephen and his daughters Sarah and Rosie share their experience.

“I came into the hospice to try and stabilise my pain and to adjust my medication,” says Stephen but he admits “I didn’t like the thought of coming here because I thought it was a one-way system. It’s not the sort of place you think you’re going to come and have a good time.”

Just before Stephen came to the hospice his daughter Sarah moved to Finland but his son Jack and other daughter Rosie visited him here

“Jack and I were both quite nervous,” explains Rosie. “We didn’t know what the hospice was going to be like, and it was COVID times as well. When we first got here everyone was so lovely it made us feel really at ease. Dad met us and took us into the lounge.

There was a little table with lemonade and squash. The first thing Dad said was “try this lemonade – it’s amazing.” Jack and I did and it was delightful.

Then we sat in the hospice garden with Dad. It was lovely and where we spent most of our time.”

During his time at the hospice Stephen’s cancer rapidly spread so the team supported his family

“I’d been here a week when it became obvious my cancer had progressed,” explains Stephen, “so one of the doctors put some time aside so Jack and Rosie could speak with her. Sarah joined us on speakerphone from Finland. I wanted my kids to be able to ask anything they wanted.”

“I dialled in from a forest just outside Helsinki and I appreciated how the hospice team made such an effort to include me. They made sure I could understand everything that was said,” says Sarah.

“I asked the doctor, “do you think I should come back?” She said, “if you’re thinking about coming back then it’s probably a good thing to do now.”

It was a clear answer to a difficult question.”

When Sarah flew home she also visited her Dad at the hospice

“Being in the hospice was the first time that Dad really allowed himself to be looked after and that helped him relax. People cooked for him. They sorted his medicine. And if he pressed his bell the nurses would bring him lemonade. He loved it and it’s the first thing he told me when I saw him.”

“There’s not the sombre atmosphere you’d expect when people are unwell in different rooms here,” explains Stephen.

“You hear children laughing in the corridors and families coming together. I didn’t expect the hospice to have gardens or to have a room to myself. I video called one friend and he said it’s more like a health spa than a hospice!”

“Knowing Dad was being looked after and had all he needed helped us feel comfortable and was really reassuring,” says Rosie. “The hospice made Dad’s life and our lives easier in so many different ways,” adds Sarah.

“It’s been wonderful,” says Stephen. “It’s not a conveyor belt to the afterlife, it’s a place where people are vibrant and happy. As a patient I’m put first in everything. Staff take the trouble to listen and there’s a community ethos around the place. The atmosphere is amazingly positive.”

After a few weeks at the hospice Stephen decided he wanted to go home so our ward team arranged for our community team to visit him

Once their Dad was home Sarah, Jack and Rosie made precious memories with him including flying along the South Coast in a light aircraft, “that was such a cool experience” recalls Sarah and a holiday to Dorset. “Mainly Dad just wanted to spend time with us,” explains Rosie.

Stephen died at home in August 2021. Before he died, he gave Sarah, Jack and Rosie a ring each inscribed with “with you always”.